So on Friday I spent my lunch hour trying to save a pig. During the morning rush hour on May 29th, 2015, this beaten and battered farm animal was found by the police within city limits. The terrified and heavily injured pig was turned into the Manitoba Pork Council while the owner was to be traced and contacted. In the midst of all the commotion, my bestie Ashley (Rae of Sunshine) first of all, informed me of the situation as I had not yet heard about it and secondly, shared that she had been in contact with the head of Manitoba Pig Save. It was revealed that the farmer was willing to release the runaway to a sanctuary if there was one who had the space to take her in. As I wanted to give this beautiful life the life she deserves, I forwarded the names of all the sanctuaries I could find within Canada to Manitoba Pig Save. Amazingly enough, compassionate animal activists across the world were also doing everything in their power to help find this pig (that adopted the name Mercy) a new home. By the end of the work day a home at a refuge in Ontario, Canada was found. As additional funds were needed for the transportation of Mercy from Manitoba to Ontario, a Go Fund Me account was created. The goal amount was set to $1,500. Thanks to several people sharing this fundraiser across social media platforms (with a special shoutout to Jessica Schlueter from The Tree Kisser in California); we reached and surpassed our goal within no time. The additional raised funds will be donated to the rescue for taking in another animal. The finalizations are still to be made but if all goes as wished-Mercy gets to live a life full of sunshine, grass, and love. What a happy ending right?! It was such an honour to be even the smallest part of that incredible and compassionate collaboration. A rare collaboration where vegans and non-vegans all worked together as a team to show mercy for Mercy. An occasion where we all agreed on one thing and we put our forces and funds together to make a difference in a life. For a glimpse of a moment, there was a strong presence of respect and growth.
The part of the story that I didn’t tell you is that when I was forwarded the fundraiser campaign link to share across my social platforms, I felt a wave of panic. Not because I didn’t want to share it or because I was embarrassed to show my compassion, but because I anticipated a type of judgement that I have feared for months. Up until this point, I have shared much personal vulnerability with you all. I have blogged about my troubles grieving the loss of my younger brother [here], I have recited my very intimate experience as a doula for the first time [here], and I have shared my in depth reasons as to why I may not want to conceive [here]. What the hell is left for a girl to expose? I honestly didn’t think there was anything much left either-until Mercy came along.
I knew I was going to share the Go Fund Me link and I of course, wanted to. When I saw the picture of this beautiful creature covered in lacerations and horrific injuries, tears welled up in my eyes immediately. When I learned that a rescue needed to be found for Mercy, I did everything that I could to help. So how would I not share the most crucial piece of the puzzle? What was I scared of you ask? I was worried about being exposed as a hypocrite. As a joke. As a confused human being. You see, I’m a meat eater. I eat animals yet I was trying to save one….one that I occasionally consume. This was my very first post ever where I was worried about what would happen after it was released into the world. I found myself anticipating all these uncomfortable questions. I found myself predicting hurtful comments. As all of these insecurities were circling around in my head I realized what the real issue was. It was me. I’m the one that had a problem with the fact that I wanted this pig to live a life full of love and rainbows but that I also eat meat. I was in denial and I was trying to place this unbearable anxiousness on how everyone else would see me when in reality these reactions I feared were just what I subconsciously thought of myself. This made so much sense when it all fell into place. We all care to some micro degree what others may think of us but I’ve accepted I will never be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s a whole other situation when you realize there’s a war within yourself…it’s the most unstable emotional place one could be.
My realization proved to be true as soon as I did post the fundraiser message. I received nothing but positive feedback. I was thanked for spreading awareness. I was praised for my compassion and I inspired many people to donate whatever amounts they could spare. Mercy’s situation did extraordinarily well on my page which was a pleasant surprise. Not one person made any remark relative to what I had feared. It was all in my head because it was my own insecurity.
Ever since I was a little girl I was an animal lover. Stories and movies about animals were my ultimate favourite. My most replayed videos were Homeward Bound (you know with the two dogs and the cat that talk), The Last Unicorn, and Charlotte’s Web (what an AMAZING story-I despise spiders but Charlotte was a mother effin’ gem). When it comes to hurt animals, I’m an unstoppable emotional wreck. You can ask anyone close to me that I am 99% brick wall when it comes to showing heartache. I don’t publicly (as in in front of even one person) grieve the death of my brother and I don’t lose my shit talking about my difficult past with an alcoholic mother. But show me or tell me a story of an unfortunate creature…and its game over. Is that compassion strong enough to become a vegan? I have tried twice now to thrive off of the plant based life and both cases did not result as positively as I’d had hoped they would.
The plant based life appealed to me early on in my health journey. I will be honest and say that I was primarily more attracted to it for the potential health benefits rather than anything else. I understood that animals die for us to be able to consume meat but I never really knew the dark truth because I chose not to. I closed my eyes and my ears because I knew that I deep down, I probably couldn’t handle the truth. I was terrified to know. So I went on my selfish ways and eventually did try a plant based diet. I entered into it with the wrong attitude. I jumped into it carrying the “diet mentality”. I didn’t focus on or appreciate all that I could eat and all that I could create without any animal products. I moped around in self-pity because of everything that I couldn’t eat (which I knew not to do because that’s how I mastered getting into this lifestyle in the first place…thinking positively and appreciating the gains). Obviously, going in with that negativity it was a disaster. I went downhill and starting eating foods that I knew I was intolerant to just to fill a void and my body was paying the price. I eventually had to stop because I realized that the plant based life was leading me anywhere but to a healthier state. Let me correct myself, I realized that my poor choices and mentality in regards to the change (it could have been any change-plant based or not) in my diet was not benefitting me. I clearly was not ready so I returned back to my old ways before I started to lose sight on what I stand for-living a life of happiness and balance and eating a nutritious diet that makes you feel your personal best.
Months went by and as they did I became more curious as to what dark truths I was avoiding in regards to factory farming. I kept hearing about the documentary “Earthlings” and put it on my to do list. I had heard it was nicknamed the “vegan maker” which intimated me. What if it didn’t turn me to veganism? New Year’s Day of this year I decided to spend my day watching it. 10 minutes into it I was bawling. I cried hysterically the whole way through as my precious cats snuggled up beside me to comfort me. It truly is a film that everyone should be forced to watch. I learned of so many horrible realities. Those eyelids that I was squeezing shut in denial for my whole life felt like they were pried open and stapled to my eyebrows. Things that I never ever considered forced me to make connections. Although the documentary was made to spread awareness, it overwhelmed me with so many emotions all at once. I felt depressed, angry, ashamed, guilty, foolish and naïve, regret, disgust, sorry…just all of these gut wrenching feelings were consuming every fibre of my being. It instantly made me a vegan…for seven weeks.
This time I went into the plant based plunge motivated, determined, and hella prepared. Not only was I making the change for the sake of my own personal health, but for the animals. I killed it. I was prepared. I planned ahead and I was rocking it in the kitchen creating the most amazing recipes. The first two weeks were almost unbelievably amazing. My energy levels were through the roof. My number 2’s have never in my life been so regular and satisfying (I called myself the poo monster). I danced victory dances after every bowel movement because I felt so fantastic. Things were going great until the middle of week three. Nothing crazy happened but I noticed that the electric energy disappeared and I felt quite fatigued. I took note of it and knew it could be due to the changes and detoxification process my body was going through. By the end of week four things were feeling off. I was extremely tired, irritated, moody, unmotivated, and honestly…depressed. I went to this dark place I never knew existed. My husband had made some comments of concern and I had setup an appointment to get my blood tested along with my vitamin B12 and my Vitamin D (which many Canadians lack). I wasn’t ready to just quit without trying anything I could think of that would perhaps explain the sudden shift. The tests showed no concern which wasn’t what I was hoping for. I needed an explanation. I was eating enough. I made sure to eat a balanced diet with a solid foundation of a variety of vibrant micronutrients. I always made sure I was getting my healthy fats, nutritious carbs, and protein (I know many vegans feel that we glorify the need for protein and I do agree when it comes to eating meat three times a day but protein is still an extremely important nutrient that our bodies need and I was making sure I was prioritizing it). I was stuck. I felt defeated. I felt like a failure. My diet was the only thing I had changed and I was heartbroken to think that I had to go back to eating meat in order to feel healthy. I didn’t want to but where’s the line? I felt like I had to choose between my life and the lives of animals. Needless to say, I was starting to not recognize myself. My demeanour had fully shifted into this pessimistic and unhealthy state. By week seven I knew I had to go through the dreaded test. Would incorporating a little bit of animal protein bring Chantal back? With the first bite I was taken over with this indescribable feeling. This wasn’t just a cheat. It was a life. But I knew I had to put my health first so I continued with it. Within a couple of weeks I was back to myself.
Why did I not share any of this? Well quite frankly because I didn’t have to. I still don’t have to but I am now choosing too. I didn’t want to shine a negative light on plant based diets. There are enough people out there that think it’s unhealthy, unrealistic, and unsustainable. I had no desire to become another statistic working against a lifestyle I supported. I was hopeful that I would thrive eating plant based but I knew there was a chance that it may not have been the ideal diet for my body (at this time anyway). I do honestly believe that everybody is built differently. I do believe that not everyone was meant to eat meat just as I believe that there are some individuals to live optimally with some animal protein (but definitely not as much as people do eat). If I had told the world I know that when I made my decision to incorporate meat back into my diet I would’ve been bombarded with untrue accusations, hurtful comments, and unfair judgements. Could I have done more? Could I have tried anything else? Honestly, probably. But to this day I still don’t know what. I am confident that one day down the road with more research-I will try again. I didn’t seek advice from fellow vegans on the affair because honestly, I wanted to avoid being told that I didn’t try hard enough or that I didn’t care enough or that I didn’t do it “right”. I wasn’t ready to hear that I had mistaken compassion for something else. Because I admire the vegan lifestyle and truly want to learn more, I find myself on “influential” Instagram accounts or blogs and sometimes the conversations I see are so disappointing. There are some genuine people out there (like myself) who are interested in the lifestyle and are seeking inspiration, advice, and encouragement both directly and indirectly. I find it strange how there can be so much compassion about mercy for animal welfare but oftentimes that strong message to the world is spread with anything but. It’s so important to remember that there are always people looking up to us. Whether we have one follower or millions-as soon as we put ourselves out there we are representing ourselves. With a label comes responsibility and veganism is one of the most powerful labels to ever exist (yes-be proud). Once one claims a label, they are responsible for representing an entire movement whether they like it or not. What those who are interested in living cruelty free need for a chance to succeed are approachable and helpful role models. People like myself need to be addressed in an educative but grateful tone when asked any question on the subject (pssst-we are already scared of you). As soon as people are attracted to veganism in any way, there’s a chance to educate, spread awareness, and perhaps change lives (both human and animal) in the most delightful manner. I hope more vegan enthusiasts can learn to proceed with the approachable voice such as the plant based promoters I've displayed below.
I will recommend that everyone watch “Earthlings.” It can be found on Netflix. It may make you change the way you shop for your food, clothes, entertainment, and cosmetics. This may seem inconvenient for you but really…it’s not. There is an array of better choices out there that don’t support animal cruelty and that are also better for the environment, and for your health. Know what you eat and where it comes from. The picture of Mercy up top may have left you feeling sad and that's exactly what it is. She was an escapee from a local factory farm in Manitoba where all animals are treated in this inhumane fashion. She is just one of billions of unfortunate animals. Earthlings will provide you with an awareness of how creatures are treated every moment of every day, and why. It will inspire you to make more conscious decisions in your everyday life. Small changes make a difference. I’m choosing to look at the big picture here and I have faith that with every person who watches this film-at least one thing in their life will change and that’s a step forward.
I want to thank Manitoba Pig Save for everything that they do. This is an extraordinary organization who is dedicated to spreading awareness on the mistreatment of pigs.
I also want to thank Ashley Wood (Rae of Sunshine) for being such an incredible and approachable vegan enthusiast. People like you are changing the world because people like me feel your appreciation with every effort we make whether it’s big or small. Thank you for being that realistic yet inspiring source of information regarding animal welfare. I appreciate it more than you know.